We’re beginning to get to the point in young Sebastian Aho’s NHL career where he isn’t all that much of a secret anymore.
As a rookie at age 19, the Finn posted 24 goals and 25 assists in 82 games. A year later, he’s at 20 goals and 23 assists after just 53 games.
He’s a lock to reach the 50 point mark in his second season, and could easily push toward 60 if all goes right. His rate production is looking stellar as well.
When compared to his league wide pairs, Aho ranks 24th among NHL forwards in 5-on-5 primary points (goals and primary assists) per 60 minutes. He’s ahead of names like Stamkos, Forsberg, Bergeron, Eichel, Ovechkin, Malkin, Voracek, Tarasenko, Benn, Seguin and Scheifele.
You get the point, he’s doing really dang well.
But while producing offensively in the NHL is the most important factor of a young forward’s game, there’s more to becoming a star than just that.
The next step is to become a dominant player in all facets of the game. While Aho is already an elite forechecker and has proven to be competent defensively as a winger, it is looking more and more like Aho’s future in the NHL will be as a center.
He played the third period of Saturday’s game in the middle with Lee Stempniak and Jeff Skinner, and indications are that that trio will be sticking together, at least for the time being.
If Aho wants to be a truly elite player in this league, he’ll need to become a serious driver of shot quantity and quality while playing the center ice position. It’s one thing to put up good corsi and expected goal shares when you’re playing on Jordan Staal’s wing. Doing it on your own line as a center is a whole other story.
If Aho can maintain his current level of production while improving to the point of being a ~54-55% xGF% player as a center, we’ll really be cooking.
Beyond that, there’s the need to be a key contributor to success at the team level. While Aho is obviously the biggest part of anything the Hurricanes accomplish, but to this point in his career, they haven’t accomplished all that much.
That could be about to change. At the time of this writing, the Hurricanes currently are in possession of the Eastern Conference’s final wild card slot.
If the team can manage to hold onto that spot and sneak into the playoffs (a big if at this point), that would be a great opportunity for a number of players on this roster to get the exposure they’ll need to get their due recognition.
No one on this roster stands to benefit more from exposure to a national audience on the game’s biggest stage than Aho, a fast-rising star who will have plenty of opportunities in the immediate and near future to advance his league-wide perception.